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PORT ELIZABETH - A 12-year-old girl burnt to death and her youngest sister suffered serious burns despite their mother's desperate rescue attempts when the family's home caught alight in Arcadia in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape police said on Wednesday.

Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said that Desnelle Stevens, 12, burnt to death after a fire engulfed a shack in Arcadia on Tuesday night. 

Naidu said police have since opened an inquest.

The grade 7 pupil and her sister Desnai, 11, were inside the shack at the back of the house when the fire broke out.

“They were alone," Naidu said. "It is unknown at this stage how the shack caught alight.”

READ: Five children killed in Cape shack fire

Naidu said the younger sister managed  to escape but was hospitalised with severe burns.  

The mother of the children also sustained burns while trying to rescue her children, said Naidu.

African News Agency/ANA